I recently spent an hour trying to overcome some NoScript issues so The Fella could set up a Facebook account. To check things out, I signed into my own long dormant account

And I decided, despite my previous kvetching, to give it a try.

(I’m currently reserving Facebook, logically enough, for people I know face-to-face. It’s mostly to preserve the illusion of distance between the Elsa known to the professors and administrators and the Elsa who swears fluently and tells goofy stories in the hazy world inside the tubes.)

If nothing else, Facebook allowed me to message a friend who’s been otherwise unreachable, and to see the comment stream of a loved one who’s been too overwhelmed to use email or phone. I’ll cheerfully admit that’s handy.

Otherwise… well…

In a week or so, I’ve had exactly one flashing moment of illumination: I saw how this network could hook you but good, like buying scratch tickets or playing craps. I was idly looking up a grade school friend — a girl I hadn’t seen in 25 years and several thousand miles. To confirm that the profile was indeed my old friend and not someone else with her name, I check to see if her sister (also a one-time friend of mine) was among her contacts. She was

… and the sister lives here, in my small hometown, a town neither of them had ever heard of when we met in Texas.

It flushed me like a win at roulette, this odd little nothing of happenstance. I shook my head and thought “What are the odds?

And then I closed both profiles without contacting either, because, y’know, what’s the point? If we’d wanted to be in touch in the past 25 years, I guess I would’ve made an effort earlier, or they would’ve. But I didn’t, and they didn’t, and so we didn’t.

This pretty well sums up my response to Facebook in general: cool! But what’s the point?

5 thoughts on “faced

  1. The general cant of this comment may seem to paint me as a huge supporter of The Book Of The Face, but I think you know me well enough to know that’s not the case. On the contrary, I tend to enter into new social media etiolations with a great deal of skepticism and with low expectations; in this way I am almost never disappointed, and am often pleasantly surprised. This has been the case in my experience with two of your bêtes noirs, Twitter and The Book Of The Face.

    I want to look at two points in your premise (in this post, not the Elijah Wood vehicle you’ve no doubt recently proposed). To me, there’s a fundamental flaw contained in your thought, If we’d wanted to be in touch in the past 25 years, I guess I would’ve made an effort earlier…

    For my uses, a primary point of social media like Twitter and TBOTF is that you are able to be in low-level, low-hassle contact with people you might not otherwise be in touch with — the effort bar has been lowered. As my use of both has increased over the last few years, I’ve found that I am really happy to be contact (albeit often only occasional, passive contact) with people whose life Venn diagrams have at one time or another intersected with mine enough for me to value them as people, yet not enough for either of us to have budgeted over decades the larger swaths for time for regular phone calls, emails, or handmade pop-up greeting cards. The point is that these media remove (to a degree) the restriction of available time and make it easier to stay more in touch with more people.

    Of course, not all the people I’m in contact with on TBOTF fall into this category. Your mention of an overwhelmed loved one makes me thankful that Facebook has recently played a big part in keeping me in at least some semblance of touch with our older sister at a time when neither of us has the time for the more traditional, more ‘personal’ ways of staying connected that we’d both surely prefer but that just, for whatever reason, aren’t happening. Sure, TBOTF may not be ideal, and it definitely has an icky sheen to it, but if I have to choose between reading a sister’s Status Updates vs. having no clue as to her status, well, the smarmy Facebook account wins that debate.

    Twitter, of course, even more so.

    And that brings me to the second quibble I have with your position: to say cool! But what’s the point? doesn’t carry the rhetorical gravitas it would if I knew you’d given Facebook (and ditto for Twitter) a reasonable chance to show you not just what it’s capable of — reconnecting you, if you’re not careful, with all the jerks from high school you never wanted to see again — but also what they’re good at: finding again, and continuing to communicate with, people you really did care about once upon a time. Not to mention keeping current with overwhelmed loved ones.

    Much overwhelmed love,


  2. Point one: Yeah, I know it’s a lot easier to keep track of, and track down if necessary, past friends now than it has been over the course of those 25 years. what I’m really saying, I suppose, is this: [long-lost friend in question] was great 25 years ago, but we fell out of touch for a reason. For now, I’m going to trust that it was a good reason. (A separate but related point: a lot of my distant friends simply aren’t using Facebook. If they were, or when they do, maybe I’ll better understand its appeal.)

    Point two: “Cool! But what’s the point?” shouldn’t have any rhetorical gravitas, because it ain’t rhetorical. As I said above, I’m trying it out, and trying to figure out if it has any point for me, any appeal for me, any use for me. This is an update, not a verdict.

  3. I’m glad you cleared this up (the rhetorical), as it sounded like you made up your mind already, and that wouldn’t be you, would it?

    The beauty about Facebook is that you can ignore whoever and whatever you want. And you’re right, there is a chance that connecting with somebody you haven’t seen or heard from in 25 years is a risk, maybe unnecessary or just plainly pointless. On the other hand, however, for the next 25 years you might revive a friendship that grows into something beautiful.

    The answer, I believe, doesn’t lie so much in our past but in our future, and, even more so, in our present. How do we feel about it now? Don’t care to connect -> ignore, curious about what could happen -> get in touch. Simple, really!

    Social media puts us in an unusually bright spotlight, and we might not want to be exposed to even a select group of invitees. The inevitable truth is that it is a reality that more and more people will have to deal with. And as much as nobody could stop the success of the car as the preferred transportation vehicle of choice, social media and its exhibitionistic tendencies will most likely prevail way past its current popular promoters like Facebook and Twitter.

    BTW, I’m already on my second attempt to use Facebook. The first time around I accepted all the games and pokes and invites until I got sick and tired of it. This time around I accept my responsibility as the primary creator of my own Facebook reality and ignore most of it.

    Good luck with your research!

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